Philippines To Hire Foreign Workers?

by Janess Ann J. Ellao

MANILA — Migrante International slammed the Department of Labor for its recent pronouncements that the government is hiring foreign workers due to a supposed “shortage of applicants.” 

“It is simply so wrong on so many levels; we were rendered speechless for a second. There is a plethora of reasons why this move is untimely, if not downright delusional. That the DOLE even has the audacity to announce such a thing is absurd, atrocious and awfully insulting to millions of our Filipino workers and professionals here and abroad. Sec. Baldoz, President Noynoy, are you on drugs?” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson. 

Baldoz, in media reports, said a study of the Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics revealed that the country needs to “liberalize the labor market and allow foreign workers with the required skills so we can fill up those hard to fill occupations due to shortage.” 

In a statement, Baldoz enumerated hard-to-fill profession as: architect, chemical engineer, chemist, environmental planner, fisheries technologist, geologist, guidance counselor, licensed librarian, medical technologist, sanitary engineer, computer numerical control machinist, assembly technician, test technician, pilot, aircraft mechanic. 

Communications secretary Herminio Coloma, in a Philippine Daily Inquirer report, however, said the government is still studying proposals to hire foreign workers for the said hard-to-fill professions. Inviting foreign workers to work in the country, he added, would serve as “signal for our Filipino professionals abroad to return to the country to fill this gap.” 

Martinez, however, said the country’s unemployment rate belies such claims. He said the labor market has long been liberalized due to the labor export policy. 

“For the government to claim that we are now in a position to be at the receiving instead of the sending end of labor trade liberalization is preposterous considering the ridiculously high unemployment rate,” he added. 

“According to the March 2013 Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, the Philippines has a 27.2% unemployment rate or more than 11.1 million Filipinos ar jobless. This is a 3.7% increase from the unemployment rate recorded in the last quarter of 2012 and a far cry from the unemployment figures of our Asian neighbors Singapore (1.7%), Malaysia (3%), Korea (3%), China (4.1%), Taiwan (4.3%), Vietnam (4.4%) and Indonesia (6.5%),” Migrante International said in a statement. 

Despite the seeming increase of jobs created in 2011 (1.4 million) and in 2012 (3.1 million), Martinez said, these reports failed to mention that the “jobs created were either short-term, contractual and highly disproportional to the ever-growing labor force.” 

Those who have jobs also suffer from low wages, Martinez added.

“Worsening joblessness feeds on chronically low wages, with the current minimum wage grossly inadequate to sustain even the most humble of families. Family incomes are not keeping up with the inflation and continuous price hikes. No wonder more Filipinos now consider themselves poor,” Martinez said. 

As a result, Migrante International said that “at least at least one-fourth of the country’s labor force has gone abroad to find work, while 64.3% of unemployed Filipinos were actively looking for jobs abroad,” as shown in the Labor Force Survey in January 2012. 

“This figure can only be attributed to the Aquino government’s more aggressive labor export policy that thrives on the desperation of Filipino workers and professionals. Last year, the government deployed two million OFWs and professionals abroad, the biggest in history. So again, how can the DOLE stomach this absurdity? How can they say that there is a shortage of job applicants when it is the government itself that is forcing and peddling a huge number of our skilled workers to foreign shores?” Martinez said. 

Martinez added, “what we genuinely need is national industrialization and genuine land reform, not policies such as these that are concocted out of grand illusions and delusions.”

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